Naming the joys I’ve found in anti-racist work

It’s been nearly two years since I started A Striving Parent and began the process of deeply examining my participation in and perpetuation of systems of oppression. The journey to understand and work against white supremacy will never end and it is not always easy. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever define anti-racist work as easy. I’ve teetered on the edge of panic attacks, suffer from insomnia and often feel isolated. Part of my anxiousness is rooted in genetic make-up. Part of my anxiousness stems from the fact that as white, straight, cisgendered person of affluence, I’m not used to sustained discomfort and anti-racist work guarantees discomfort.

I try to be really honest in my writing and share the insecurities, the growing-edge moments and even the ugliness that can show up for me while I struggle to unravel the internalized white supremacy within myself and my family. But as I spent time with a dear friend last week, whom I met through anti-racist work, it struck me how much more enriched my life has become in the past two years. And it struck me that I don’t often lift up the joyful aspects of racial and social justice work.

Positivity image

As a personal challenge, I am sharing five joys I’ve experienced while striving to be an anti-racist parent and person. I am not doing this to pretend undoing white supremacy isn’t grueling and painful work. It is. But it’s also a transformative and even awesome journey from which I find happiness and fulfillment again and again. So here we go:

  1. The truth is liberating  – For the past two years, I have sought out books, news sources, films and other media that expand my understanding of race, power and privilege on an individual and societal level. My critical thinking skills are exploding as I unlearn and relearn just about everything I’ve ever been taught. Thanks for nothing, whitewashed history lessons of my youth! Once I started looking, I realized how passively I consumed media over the course of my life. There are many publications, activists, authors, artists and organizations who have and continue to produce incredible work with a racial and social justice lens and it’s all readily accessible. What I’m learning can not be defined as joyful necessarily, but this information allows me to be rooted in and move from a foundation of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I am finally in control and it’s liberating.
  2. My kids are beginning to understand and embrace differences – I’ll never forget the first time I named race with my son, who was three at the time. We were reading a book and I pointed out a character with peachy skin like ours and another character with brown skin. A look of relief and understanding came over my son’s face. He immediately started to talk about the people in his life who had different skin tones and ask a million questions. The world opened up for him and for me in that moment and I realized when I avoided naming race, I was doing him a great disservice. My kids, who are two and four, constantly surprise me with their capacity to acknowledge and embrace differences. I know we have a long road ahead of us when it comes to complex discussions about race, gender, abilities, sexuality, family structures and more but we’re building the foundation right now.
  3. I have deeper relationships with friends and community – Y’all, my friends and community, near and far, online and in real life, are simply the greatest! I have previously shared that some of my friendships changed when I started this blog. Some people pulled away from me and I pulled away from other people. This process has been painful at times, yes, but it’s also been really freeing. I now have the space and motivation to cultivate friendships and community with people who share my values as a parent and a person. In the past two years, I’ve built relationships of substance with people locally and nationally who I cannot imagine my life without.
  4. Action breeds hope – I used to spend a lot of time feeling powerless, wringing my hands and lamenting “what can I do?” when it came to racial and social justice. But I now know there are literally countless actions I can make, big and small, and there are numerous organizations and individuals to support who have been doing this work for decades. Resource mapping what was already happening locally and nationally was an important first step. For parents, check out Raising Race Conscious Children, EmbraceRaceMy Reflection Matters, Raising an Advocate, and Showing Up For Racial Justice Families. In Atlanta, check out Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Black Lives Matter Atlanta, Charis Books & More, Georgia WAND, Femininst Women’s Health Center, Project South, Solutions Not Punishment Coalition, Southerners On New Ground, and Street Groomers for starters. Supporting the activists and organizations doing racial and social justice work is empowering and fills me with hope. Hope is what keeps me pushing forward. I need to continue to step up my game and show up to protests, lobby days, trainings and of course, donate, donate, donate. Please lift up your favorite organizations below!
  5. I’m growing as a human – While I am forever a work in progress, I am learning how to do be a better human every single day. I’m more intentional around who I spend time with, I’m a more intentional parent, I’m more intersectional in my feminism, I’m more connected to and active within my communities, I’m more educated…I could go on. Do I pretend to be perfect? Never. Perfection is not an attainable goal and mistakes are guaranteed. While mistakes are humbling and do not feel good, they also foster growth. I’m growing and it’s a good thing.

Thinking affirmatively is an ongoing challenge for me in many parts of my life. It’s particularly challenging when it comes to how I frame my role and my work as a white person striving to be anti-racist. I push myself to be honest and embrace the painful, growing-edge moments in this work, and I’m realizing it’s important to name the joyous aspects as well.

What joys do you experience in your anti-racist work? I’d love to hear about them below.




4 thoughts on “Naming the joys I’ve found in anti-racist work

  1. Mads @Learning Liberation says:

    I LOOOOOOOOOOVED reading this!! I relate SO much to the bit about anxiety. I was diagnosed with PMDD at the same time that I was spending the bulk of my time on anti-racist activism and the two combined made for a very anxious, self-critical, uncomfortable me. But luckily I didn’t run from the work and I’m definitely a better person because of it.

    I think the thing that have been most joyful and exciting for me since joining the movement is how much LOVE I feel when I’m with my movement folks. There’s singing and laughter and hugging and kids playing when we have our meetings, and we always tell each other that we love each other. We take our Assata chant seriously. People think that activists run off of anger but deep down, we’re motivated by our LOVE for our neighbors and communities.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill Tolsma says:

    I love this article, first of all. Thank you for sharing this Shannon. I’ve always found that for me, and I imagine many others, truth-seeking invites understanding. And that understanding births unexpected relationships. And those relationships bring great joy because they are grounded in truth.


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